'Food Network Star' Review: Ranking the 12 Finalists
'Food Network Star' Review: Ranking the 12 Finalists
Jenn Lee
Jenn Lee
Staff Writer, BuddyTV
Now that three weeks have passed, we've become fairly familiar with the finalists of Teams Bobby, Giada and Alton on Food Network Star. Each of the famed cooking personalities started the season with five contestants and each has lost one, leaving 12 hopefuls still vying for the coveted spot of the Food Network's next star. Let's take a moment to review each team's top contenders, as well as the struggling candidates during this new and intimidating season.

Team Bobby: The Chefs
As the mentor who has emphasized cooking chops, Bobby has predictably put together a team with impressive culinary skill. Eric and Michele in particular have struck me as having standout dishes that really wowed the judges in past challenges. But we all know cooking (expertise and a unique POV) is only half the equation; star quality (especially in front of a camera or live audience) is equally important, and in that sense, this group still has a ways to go. Here's my assessment of Bobby's four finalists:

  1. Michele: In terms of the magical two-part equation, I think Michele has the strongest potential of the bunch. She has a fun, big personality that usually comes across with ease (unless Giada is eyeing her). If she can maintain that confidence and harness that fun-loving, relatable persona, I think she can go far.
  2. Eric: I think Eric's "hand crafted" POV is an interesting and ambitious one that has so far given him high marks, food-wise. But I'm worried he will bite off more than he can chew (he always seems to be running around the kitchen until the last minute), and I'm not sure how interesting he is on-camera. Sometimes he seems like he'd be better off as a culinary instructor.
  3. Nikki: She has confidence and authority and her POV is something missing on Food Network ("Girl on Grill," or a female expert on grilling). But she's missing the balance of relatability - I'm not sure she will widely appeal to viewers like some of the other contestants.
  4. Malcolm: Truthfully, I think this past week was the first time I really noticed Malcolm. Whether it's his POV or his personality, something is preventing him from standing out from the group. He needs to focus in on his strengths to make himself more unique if he wants a real shot at winning.

team giada.jpgTeam Giada: The Likable Bunch
The bubbly Italian chef believes conveying personality is the key to this competition. Giada's four team members seem to have a decent amount of compelling personality, but it's still not quite at the celebrity level I think the network is seeking. I also think the team could use some development in making their culinary POVs more specific and intriguing.

  1. Ippy: Ippy is one of my favorites in the competition so far: he has a unique perspective (his native Hawaiian cuisine), delivers with his dishes and has a soothing, likable presence. One criticism the network has had is his relatively low energy, but I find this fits with his laid-back personality and comes across as part of his genuineness.
  2. Linkie: Before last week, I would have placed Martita above Linkie, but considering Linkie improved remarkably and Martita (again) failed to show off that fiery personality Giada keeps gunning for, I'd put Linkie's chances higher. She's bright and enthusiastic, so people will probably like her. But being a dessert expert also doesn't seem exciting enough to me.
  3. Martita: She has simply been too hesitant, especially in more recent challenges. Martita needs to get that bold charisma starting again soon, or she might not have much more time on the show.
  4. Yvan: Yvan is nice, friendly and seems to have decent cooking skills. But he also seems a bit lost in his Food Network Star vision. He started off the show claiming he wanted to do "small bites," but last week Giada told him he should consider family-style, as it suited his persona better. He needs to figure this out quickly and muster the confidence to stand behind it.

team alton.jpgTeam Alton: The Nonconformists
Perhaps more than the other celebrities, Alton's team clearly represents his own culinary persona. They are overall an eccentric group and this helps them be memorable, which is a major advantage on this show. If I had to choose, I'd peg Alton's team as having the likeliest chance to claim the winning title.

  1. Justin: Justin seems to be growing each week. He is probably the most unique contender on the show and he has the cooking mastery to back up his daring "Rebel with a Culinary Cause" POV.
  2. Emily: From her fashion to her food, Emily embodies her "retro rad" image perfectly, giving her the whole package. With very little time or information, you get a fairly good sense of who she is and what she's about, food-wise. If she stays this consistent, she will probably be around to the end.
  3. Judson: He's a sharp dresser with interesting culinary creations, but Judson's struggled with being genuine when in the spotlight. If he can put away the spokesperson and bring out that earnestness, he could be a contender.
  4. Martie: The judges and network seem to value Martie's likability higher than I do, because it seems like she got by on that alone last week when she was in the bottom two. Yes, sincere and opens up naturally, but I still question her tendency to ramble and her cooking skills, which seem to pale in comparison to her teammates.

Of course, any of these contestants could rise or fall in the weeks to come - this show is all about growth, and it's on them to take the show's feedback and better themselves week by week. What do you all think of this season's group of hopefuls? Are there any top contestants you think are already certain to make it to the end?

(Image of courtesy of Food Network)